Pricing PR by the outcome, not the hour

Dan Morris received many nice emails from people who saw him quoted in the Wall Street Journal article. One was from Kirsten Mortensen, who wrote the following:

Hi, Dan,

Came across your name in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal article. Congratulations on that!

I have also just joined your institute.

My firm, Creative Communications Services, has offered project-priced PR services to our clients for over 30 years.

I can’t tell you how many times, in that time, we’ve watched with astonishment as corporations have thrown big bucks at PR programs that are all puff and no results.

Please let me know if there is anything we can do to contribute to your site.



I immediately wrote to Kirsten and asked if she’d contribute a case study for our Trailblazers section, which she generously did. It’s just excellent, and speaks for itself on the sanity of basing your prices on results, not hours:

It’s All in the Package:
Pricing PR by the outcome, not the hour

Kirsten Mortensen, CCS/PR

Other public relations agencies have probably viewed us, over the years, as naïve.

We’ve never cared. We’ve just smiled and gone about our business—because, in the 35 years that CCS/PR has been serving our Fortune 500 clients, we’ve proven our value many times over, earning our clients’ loyalty and repeat business, as well as a steady stream of word-of-mouth referrals.

Our secret is what we called “package pricing.”

We didn’t design this model to anticipate the Big New Thing in services pricing—nor to respond to clients’ budget concerns. It was by accident, really. Our firm was founded by Bob Fisher, a young newspaper reporter who transitioned to writing “success stories”—
case histories—for Eastman Kodak Company and other high-tech corporations. It was a modest little freelance business in the beginning, but notice the model: Bob brought a journalist’s aesthetic and principals to public relations, and he was paid when he produced something tangible—high-quality articles profiling how customers benefited from using his clients’ products.

It wasn’t the way traditional PR firms operated, but it worked for Bob—and it engendered a feeling of mutual trust with his clients.

As Bob’s workload grew, CCS transitioned into an employee-owned company staffed by journalists and media relations professionals who secured placements for our case studies. The portfolio grew; today we offer everything from news release development and distribution, marketing, PR consulting, to customer reference management, video production, and, more recently, website content development.

But even as we expanded, CCS continued to offer package pricing under the original model. For example, we arranged for the placement of articles before we started writing them, so clients only paid for print-publication pieces that actually reached their intended audience

Yes, this model means we assume some risk. We essentially work on spec. But because we assume the risk, we work smart, and there’s a built-in integrity to our services delivery.

We focus our efforts on results—because we’re paid for results, not for “effort.”

We find ways to work efficiently—because when we work efficiently, the operational savings go straight to our bottom line, allowing us to bid more competitively for work while still remaining profitable.

We are inherently comfortable with metrics. It’s easy for us to document the results of our services on our clients’ behalf, because our work is focused on achieving results.

And we don’t overpromise to our clients or overhype what they can accomplish—because we know we won’t get paid for promises we can’t keep.

Not every client we’ve worked for has wanted our pricing structured in this way. We’re sometimes asked to bid on contracts based on a per-hour bodies-for-hire model. And when this happens, we accommodate those requests.

But no matter what, we continue to offer our package pricing option to both new and existing clients. It remains a fundamental aspect of our firm’s corporate identity. And it feeds our corporate culture of integrity, high-quality work, and a strong emphasis on results.

Thanks, Bob!

Thanks so much Kirsten for sharing your story with our community.

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